Recommenders and essay topics

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Recommenders and essay topics

by smkrn » Wed May 21, 2008 4:56 am
Hi,

I am planning to apply to MBA programs this coming fall and was wondering, how much time is acceptable between obtaining a recommendation and the specified interaction with the recommender? Specifically, I did volunteer work full-time for 2 years, ending 3.5 years ago. I had a very great experience with my superior over the course of the 2 years, in which I was appointed to numerous leadership positions - is it ok to have him write a letter of recommendation for me, given that the experience ended 3.5 years ago? For what it's worth, I've stayed in steady contact with the potential recommender since ending my volunteer service.

Second, would this volunteer service (specifically the leadership experience) be an acceptable subject for an essay, again considering that the service spanned 2 years and ended 3.5 years ago?

I ask these questions because of my background: I will graduate from my undergrad program next May and will be applying as a college senior to MIT, Wharton, Chicago, and Cornell (also HBS 2+2). My other recommendation will come from a professor that I've helped with special projects and done research for over the last 2 years (this should be a very strong recommendation, as he knows me well outside the classroom).

Any input is greatly appreciated.

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by VP_MBA_Guru » Wed May 21, 2008 6:06 am
Hi Smkrn,

Thanks for your post! Great question - it is totally acceptable to use an adviser from an EC to write your LORs. Many applicants will use an LOR from an EC because they only had one supervisor and/or want to present a different side of their leadership/teamwork skills. As you know, the key with LORs is to find people who can best express and communicate your strengths and sell your candidacy. The person you mentioned below sounds like a good choice.

With any LOR (esp those that do are not familiar with MBA LORs), make sure you give them ample guidance - in terms of why you are applying, leadership traits that you demonstrated from your experience that he/she could discuss.

I am curious to hear why you are applying after undergrad rather than working for a few years. While it is possible to get into a top MBA program directly from undergrad, it is a tough process.

Regards,

NP
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by smkrn » Wed May 21, 2008 6:30 am
Thanks for this great advice. Is it acceptable that this particular LOR will have been from an experience that ended 3.5 years ago?

As for my plans: I will be finishing a double major in mechanical engineering and mathematics next May. I want to get into tech management. Besides finding it fascinating, I've found from internship experiences that often the people in charge of a company's business model have much more influence on which technologies actually get developed and marketed. It's partially for this reason that I picked a technical undergrad degree - so I would better understand tech products while in a management role.

After interning at a defense contractor and talking with people on the business/management track in that company, I've been advised that the experience I would gain from 1-2 years of working as an engineer would not really give me a significant advantage over the technical background I've gained from my undergrad degrees and research. So I figure, why wait? Go for it now (if I can get accepted to B-school). So we'll see if I can get in - if not, I'll work for a of couple of years and reapply.

For the sake of an extra opinion - does this all make sense/sound alright to you?

Thanks again.

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by VP_MBA_Guru » Wed May 21, 2008 7:12 am
Hi Sm,

I think in your situation (out of undergrad without any significant work experience), having a LOR from an experience from 3 years ago is fine. You could get a LOR from one of your internship experiences, but do you think they would be able to provide as much insight as the EC recc? Seems like this person will write a stellar recommendation vs an internship supervisor who worked with you for 3 months.

In am a bit old school, in that I strongly believe students should have a few years of work experience before applying. However, if you look at the class profile trends of top schools, the average ages are older. Moreover, AdCom is admitting more candidates with 0-2 years of WE.

That said, your story/rationale makes a lot of sense, and will be great material for your essays. And coming from a tech/engineering background - the MBA curriculum, will be a perfect complement to your professional career goals.

Regards,

NP
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by smkrn » Wed May 21, 2008 7:35 am
The point you bring up - that the EC recommender will be able to give a much stronger and comprehensive recommendation - is the same reason that I would prefer to use this person (instead of an internship supervisor that only interacted with me for 3 months). I'm sure the internship supervisor would be able to give a good recommendation, but likely not a great recommendation, because he only interacted with me for 3 months, and I was an intern at an engineering company at that.

I was also wondering if you might suggest any areas of my profile to work on. I'm 25/white/male. My GPA is 3.99 (for the mechanical engineering and math double major). I'm taking the GMAT on June 30; practice tests have been in the mid-700's. In addition to the 2-year volunteer thing, I'm the president of an honors fraternity, chair of the student advisory committee, I recently started an ACT tutoring program at a local high school, and a few other things. Any glaring deficiencies, especially if I'm going to be a college senior applicant?

Thanks again for the advice.